UFC's Molly McCann: I only hear my dad's voice when I fight, never the crowd

‘I’m thankful for my submission finish of Taila Santos. I am thankful for my 50k bonus. I am thankful for Ellis and me getting drunk on the plane home together.’

Molly McCann is reading from her ‘gratitude book’ from a hotel in Heathrow. The UFC fighter is speaking from quarantine, and in a couple of hours will receive the call she tested negative for Covid-19 and is free to make the short trip over the motorway to board a plane to Abu Dhabi.

Like every other professional fighter in the UK, McCann has spent the last four months in lockdown. But unlike many of her peers, when the UFC called to offer her a fight against Talia Santos on 15 July on Yas Island, McCann was fit and raring to go.

The coronavirus pandemic means a host of safety measures are in place including quarantine in a hotel room before any fighter can fly to Abu Dhabi. The 30-year-old has got her phone, a book on the All-Blacks and her gratitude journal to keep her company.

‘I write down what I’m grateful for now and my gratitude intentions. I try and fill the page,’ she told Metro.co.uk.

‘Today I’ll tell ya what I said… I’m grateful for my career and the company I work for to put me in such a position to still work. I’m grateful for my family and my friends who support me through my ups and downs, never judge and always protect.

‘Then you ave to say your grateful intentions as if they are already happening, but it’s the future.’

‘If I having to be this, it’s not who I want to be. I want to be flashy. I want to showboat. I want to do stuff they can’t do so they look at me and say “Fu*k, I can’t do that!”

‘This fight camp I’ve been allowed to express myself that way. From the second we get to go fight you will see a whole different me.

‘My coaches have got the faith in me to say “go and have fun”.’

Unable to train in the gym for three months, it was all on McCann to remain in shape and be prepared for a lightning quick camp. Sparring was only permitted in the final weeks before her fight.

Max Holloway spoke at length about doing his training camp over Zoom, Jorge Masvidal accepted a title fight on six days notice and cut 20 pounds in five days to make weight.

A fighter might be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas during lockdown. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who launches a stream of behind-closed-door events next month, revealed some of his fighters had turned down bouts, preferring to wait for crowds to return.

There will be no crowds on ‘Fight Island’ and McCann didn’t think for one moment about turning down the Santos bout.

‘I signed with the UFC on five weeks notice with 35 pounds to lose. You’re a fighter or you’re not,’ she said.

‘The world will now see who has the minerals and who hasn’t. And we could lose, I could go out to Abu Dhabi and lose but at least I am what it says on the tin. I am a fighter so I’m going to fight.’

Despite being a crowd pleaser and a fighter who appears to feed off a live atmosphere, McCann isn’t worried about fighting in a virtually empty room.

‘I might not have people there in the arena, but I will have my people with me,’ she said.

‘My reasons for fighting is my mum and my dad. I’ve said it a million times before, but my dad said to me “go and get that belt”.

‘If the chips are down and I’m getting my head punched in, I think about what he said and it pushes me through.

‘I don’t need the crowd to push me through those adverse moments because I’ve got my dad speaking to me.

‘The crowd is nice to be there for appreciation for a good move and to hear their cheer when I land a big shot, but other than that?

‘I’m only listening to what Ellis (Hampson) or my coaches Paul or Simon are saying. I’m listening to my opponent wince. That might be nice to hear her wince a bit more.’

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